How To Handle A Setback

Posted by on Apr 27, 2012 in Change Management | 15 comments

One of the hardest parts of creating change in life is dealing with setbacks. Everyone experiences setbacks, and yet many individuals pay more attention to the setback than to their progress.

Life isn’t all or nothing, it’s not black and white, yet some judge life, themselves, and other people as if there are only two choices- right or wrong. Sometimes there is no one right choice, nor one wrong choice.

When mistakes are made it’s all too easy to overreact and feel as if there’s no chance to recover but of course there is. Everyone makes mistakes, and mistakes aren’t the end of your journey, they are simply signs that tell you which way to go next.

Each positive choice you make is a positive choice, even when life doesn’t work out the way you expected. Don’t discount the good choices you’ve made when you make a bad choice. You always have the opportunity to make a positive choice next time.

Sometimes a setback is not a mistake, but a change in situation such as layoffs, a mentor or advocate moving away, or your car breaking down.

In the moment these situations can become larger-than-life, negatively affecting all aspects of your day. You may fail to see there are many possible outcomes, and even some new opportunities available to you. Happy and successful people recognize the value in making the best of your situation, especially when faced with setbacks.

Whatever setbacks you experience, the best thing you can do is move forward. Here are some other ideas for dealing with a setback.

Feel your feelings, then let them go.

It’s likely you’ll experience uncomfortable emotions as the result of a setback. You may feel angry, scared, embarrassed, or guilty. Find healthy and appropriate ways to express what you’re feeling. Acknowledge the emotion and let it go. The longer you hold on to your emotional response, the longer you’ll remain stuck right where you are.

Inventory your assets.

Every setback provides a great opportunity to make a list of everything that’s working for you. Consider all the good choices you’ve made, as well as your progress and growth. Make a list of your accomplishments. You can use this list to keep your setback in perspective, and recognize other possible outcomes and opportunities.

Get some perspective.

Very few life-changing events in life are as big as we give them credit for in the moment.Taking a break, performing a simple and easily accomplished task, or referring to your asset inventory can be a great way to put your situation in it’s proper perspective. This perspective allows you address the situation with new ideas and solutions.

Avoid information overload.

After experiencing a setback it can be tempting to try to find a reason for what happened, or information to help you avoid a similar situation in the future. Doing some research can be helpful, but too much information can be confusing and paralyzing. Often a solution or opportunity will be evident when you stop looking so hard.

Don’t be a victim.

As soon as you start blaming other people for your troubles, you’ve painted yourself as a victim in your mind and you’ll be hard-pressed to make positive progress. Whether you stumbled, or a change was forced on you, you always have options, and one setback doesn’t define you or your life.

Be nice to you!

You may need a little extra TLC when faced with disappointment or challenge so remember to be nice to you. Participate in an activity you enjoy, spend time with friends, eat something you love and do not beat yourself up about it!

Push ahead.

When faced with a setback, many people give up altogether. You’ve got nothing to gain by giving up, and you could loose sight of your goals, your purpose, and your dreams. The only real failure is failing to try.

dealing with a setbackImage courtesy of justmakeit.

I love your comments! Tell me about a recent setback- how did you handle it?


  1. Hi chrysta,

    I had quite a tough time dealing with some critical feedback with regards to performance at work (and not performing according to my standards) I had a goal set up and I failed due to external factors such as health and personal problems.

    I forwarded your link to my CEO and shared the inspiration you gave to me to get back on to the horse.

    Thank you for this, it’s gone a long way (and I shared it with a few people!)

    Kind regards
    C :)

    • Thanks so much for your awesome comment, Charne!

      Everything I write about in my blog is something I have personally experienced and I can relate! As much as I loathe the feeling of receiving a poor performance review, I also know the awesome feeling of confidence and achievement that follows when I pushed ahead and came back stronger and better than before.

      I was in this exact situation at the beginning of last year. Everything changed for me in my job and I really let the external circumstances affect my internal circumstances. Unfortunately I slipped and let it affect the quality of my work. I was feeling very discouraged but I was also very determined to prove to myself that I could handle it. Of course I wrote about it, too.

      As someone who’s been there, I want to encourage you to keep up the good work you are capable of. You can do this! Keep doing the right things!

      Have a grateful day!


  2. Hey Chrysta,

    Absolutely right. We should never give upon our mistakes. We should learn from them and try again with our new knowledge.

    I was considering the same concept yesterday when thinking of an idea for a blog post. As humans, we have to learn to fall before we learn to walk. Same principle applies to business. You can never achieve success the first time (only a few have done that, by lucky chance). But, that’s not the case for everyone. We need to try hard until we succeed, we need to learn to fail, learn from the failures and try again from the knowledge.

    I have failed many times in blogging – my first blog – I didn’t blog consistently, my first and second email list – procrastination and inconsistency again – all those lessons added up, and they are really helping me now for building my current blogs and email list.

    Thanks for the inspirational post, Chrysta!


    • Thanks for another awesome comment, Jeevan!

      I recently heard a speaker talking about kids and mistakes. She pointed out that kids aren’t afraid to make a mistake- when they are learning to talk, to crawl, to walk, they try and fail and try again until they accomplish the task. They don’t stress about falling down- they simply get up again. As adults it is our expectations and opinions that lead us to believe mistakes are bad. What if, instead, we saw the world the way children do?

      Have a grateful day!


      • I do remember watching a animated video about thinking like kids. I was searching for it on Youtube, but couldn’t find it.

        It is indeed a great way. Think about us when we were kids. We weren’t afraid to try something new; we were always curious.

  3. So very true, Chrysta! It can become easy for us to allow our setbacks to get the best of us; especially when they leave us feeling hopeless and thinking the task will never get done. You’ve provided here great tips to keep going in spite of the setbacks we face.

    I’ve had a few of my own lately, but I have been really focusing on what I want to make happen, and less on the setback itself. That doesn’t always work out the way we imagined for them to work out though, does it? Yet, if we keep moving forward and keep our eyes fixed on the prize, those setbacks we have will become testaments to what it took for us to get to where we wanted to be initially.

    Great share here… thanks!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Deeone!

      I love the insight you shared about focusing on your goal instead of the setback. I have experienced many setbacks where I focused on the setback and let myself become frustrated and discouraged. Each setback is just one event in a life full of events! If I spend too much time and energy on the setback itself, I’m not going to continue making progress and I’ll feel pretty bad about it, too. That’s certainly not a life I want to live so instead I choose to move forward, and as you suggested, focus on my goal instead.

      Have a grateful day!


  4. Some great suggestions here Chrysta.

    My career graph has been a up down up kind of graph but everytime I have tried to learn from my mistakes and move on.
    I refuse to develop a victim mentality even if conditions are bad and always try to learn new skills to move forward.
    In my opinion, these are golden advices :)

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Ashvini!

      Like you, I’ve experienced many ups and downs in life- most of them unexpected and unplanned. The only way to live a great life is to move past setbacks and make the best of life!

      Have a grateful day!


  5. I think It takes a little more time and effort to handle setbacks the right way; but in the end, you will have set your course that will keep you focused on the truly important things—leading to a life full of happiness and success!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Mika! You bring up a great point- it takes time and effort to overcome setbacks. For this reason patience and perseverance are important!

      Have a grateful day!


  6. I agree with Jon. Great advice Chrysta and I think this is why personal development is so important.

    When we dive into it and really understand why things happen and how we are in control of how we react to them then I believe we can handle the mistakes we make much better. And we all make them, big and small.

    I didn’t always handle mistakes so gracefully. Some I still probably don’t, I let my emotions get the better of me but I do have my moments and then I back off and look at the bigger picture. I don’t have a problem with admitting when I’m wrong too.

    This is truly great advice so I’ll be happy to share this with all my friend and followers. We can all be much better people because of it too.

    Have a grateful day Chrysta! Using your term now. :-)


    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Adrienne!

      I think we all have moments when we let our emotional reaction get the best of us- that’s just being human. The important thing is we push past those moments and forge ahead, right? You’re a great example of progress and I love your blog entries where you admit your mistakes and help others learn from the mistakes you’ve already made- thank you!

      Have a grateful day!


  7. What great, solid advice, Chrysta. Although tough times are tough, the worst thing to do is just feel sorry for yourself or do nothing. It is about picking up the pieces and doing something!

    My brother is going through this now, and he is an inspiration. Much of it is because he is very focused on reclaiming his life and recovering from setbacks dealt to him. It takes an internal fortitude, a clear attitude of wanting to move forward, and friends to support you when needed.

    Thanks for offering the foundation for people to re-start when needed.


    • Thanks for the awesome comment, Jon!

      I agree your brother is an inspiration. Everyone deals with setbacks and moving forward is all we can really do if we want to make progress and be happy in life. I applaud anyone that forges ahead as it reminds me again and again to do the same when I’m in that situation. I’m sure having a great brother like you is a great support to him, too.

      Have a grateful day!


Leave a Comment